Amsterdam and northward…then on to Greece

This time I am writing from Athens, Greece. But first I wanted to post the last pics from our day north of Amsterdam with our outstanding guide, Hans. I found Hans (as well as our guides in Athens and Barcelona) through Tours by Locals. We have used this company before and they are all over the world. The reviews on the site are usually right on and can be trusted. We have found you get some great local insights you would not get from a ship tour because these are the people who live right there. You learn so much.

Hans met us right on time at our hotel and we were off. Since we had already toured Amsterdam on a prior visit, we were looking to see the outskirts of the city as well as some of the countryside. Hans did a great job of doing just that. See the photo captions for some of what we saw. Don’t forget, if you click the first shot, you can then scroll through with your arrow keys or by swiping…and PLEASE…don’t look at my photography on a phone. Please…

On to Athens

We had dinner the night of our northern Netherlands tour at a place Kathleen and I had eaten at on our last trip that Jamie and Steve wanted to try—Restaurant Zaza. It’s a short cab ride from the Banks Mansion. It was just as good as it had been in 2016, it both service and food. Had a great time.

The next day we had a flight to Athens at 12:20 pm. The hotel as well as every post we had seen online suggested we get to the Schipol Airport no later than four hours before we flew. So off we went at 8:00 am and check my previous post for how we did at the airport. The flight itself was “fine” (you know what that means) and they gave us an actual sandwich…not really, it was just two pieces of VERY stale bread with a single slice of the worst cheese in The Netherlands between it 😜. But they got us (AND OUR LUGGAGE) there almost on time and as soon as we got to baggage claim a rep from Viking Cruises met us and whisked us and our luggage away to a waiting coach for our almost hour-long trip to our hotel, the Athens Marriott. You should know that this hotel was not our choice, but Viking’s as we are now in their care on our pre-cruise extension. I will say that it is a very nice Marriott, it has the best water pressure EVER (I took too many long showers) but it is located in a very non-photographic part of town. The first night I tried taking a photo walk and you will see what I came up with below. Then in my next post I will show you shots of the Athens you were expecting.

Watch the next post for my report on a very HOT but rewarding day in Athens.

I like the look of a windmill. —Jeff Duncan

Beautiful Bonaire—I’m impressed

Yesterday (Friday January 28th) we were in beautiful Bonaire. One of the three ABC islands, the island is predominately known for its diving—both scuba and snorkeling. I could go on and on about their politics, their industry and the rest of it but if you really want to know—click here—for a link to the Wikipedia page for Bonaire.

What I will tell you about is the two (yes 2) excursions we took and how impressed I am with the island. First let me say that we are NOT divers of any kind. We leave that to our friends Mike and Cathy. They do the snorkel thing and the scuba thing. They live in Florida so they have warm water. We live in Washington where if you go in the water, you freeze to death in less time than you can say, “GET ME THE HELL OUT OF HERE!”

So we started off the morning with a ship’s excursion called “The Best of Bonaire.” There were three groups of about 12 people in three different vans. We had settled into one of the vans when the head of shore excursions asked for volunteers to move to another van because they had miscalculated the numbers on ours. We were in the front so we said we would switch. Best decision of the day. I have nothing against the guide and driver on the original van but the new van had a guide that made our day—Gladys. Now we really doubt Gladys is her real name because she acted like it was a joke all day long but if you are in Bonaire doing this tour, get Gladys. The woman is a HOOT! Not to mention an excellent guide and you could tell how much she loves her adopted island—Bonaire. She is originally from Wisconsin but has been on Bonaire off and on since 1963 so she knows her stuff. Her driver was a guy she called Cheech because of his past life as a cop confiscating marijuana and being in charge of burning it after the perpetrators were caught.

These two took us all over the island and while Gladys regaled us with stories, history, geography, science, nature and local customs, Cheech kept a VERY sharp eye out for the best flora and fauna he could find. And find it he did, time and time again. Check out my pics to see what I mean. He found parrots, parrot fish (he was good at parrot stuff 😜), lizards and all kinds of other stuff. Then he would slow down or stop so that us photographers could get the pics we were after. (BTW: I am so sorry I did not get a photo of Gladys or Cheech—my bad.)

We were out touring with Gladys and Cheech for 3.5 hours and other than my knees giving me problems from sitting for so long we had a great time and saw a bunch of great stuff as you will see in the photos. Don’t forget, if you click the first shot, you can then scroll through with your arrow keys or by swiping…and PLEASE…don’t look at my photography on a phone. Please…

Our second excursion a little later in the day was a short but very nice trip on a glass-bottom boat. Having never been on a glass-bottom boat before I thought maybe I could get some great underwater photos without going underwater. And our guide and skipper Kim took us out to the coral reef around a large island called Little Bonaire that is just off the main port. While we were able to see some very pretty fish, the only photo I could even slightly make work is the one of the turtle you see below. The other pics are from the boat ride but just not the underwater parts.

To sum all this up, I would say the one thing that most impressed me about Bonaire is that they have not succumbed to the usual cruise-type shops. No Diamonds International, etc. Also, both guides we had were so in love with their island and the things their government (which is funded and supervised by Amsterdam—Bonaire being a Dutch protectorate) is doing for their people, their environment and the flora and fauna of the island. It I also impressive that 70% of the island’s power (even powering their desalinization plants) is from wind. And they hope to be 100% renewable within 5 years. Not only that but everyone there has health care, an education, a guaranteed retirement…all things that every human should have a right to.

I sometimes detect that a type of regional divide is setting in, and there is a lack of real Caribbean connection among the islands, and I am concerned about this.  —Anthony Carmona